A Treasure of Knowledge: Waseda University Library

The Waseda University Library came into existence in 1882. The library was established together with the founding of Tokyo Senmon Gakko, a school which was the precursor to Waseda University.

A Treasure of Knowledge: Waseda University Library

The Waseda University Library came into existence in 1882. The library was established together with the founding of Tokyo Senmon Gakko, a school which was the precursor to Waseda University. Since then, the library has expanded together with the university and is now one of Japan's finest libraries. Currently, the library consists of 26 facilities including the Central Library, 4 campus libraries, 6 student reading rooms, and instructor libraries and material rooms located throughout the university.
This article introduces the current Waseda University Library, an institution that continues to evolve and to fascinate many students and researchers.

Examining the forest of library

Central Library

The Central Library was established in 1991 as one of the main events of the Waseda University 100th Anniversary Project. The year 1991 also marked 110 years since the beginning of the library's history. The Central Library is located on the former site of Abe Stadium.

The following phrase is written in Latin on the entrance of the Central Library (photograph on right):
This phrase means “Learn by reading what wisdom is.”
Cato the Elder, a statesman in Roman times, gave this instruction to his son.

Bust of Kenkichi Ichishima (Syunjo)
This bust was erected in March 2010 in order to commemorate the 150th birthday of Kenkichi Ichishima (also known as Syunjo; lived from 1860 to 1944), the first-ever Director of the Waseda University Library. Kenkichi Ichishima was appointed as Library Director in 1902. During his 15 years as director, he worked ceaselessly to collection materials and hold active exhibitions.

Ikuo Hirayama: Old Kumano Pathway
Old Kumano Pathway, a painting by Ikuo Hirayama (deceased), is hung on the landing of the stairs connecting the 2nd and 3rd floors. The work was painted under the theme of “the depth of pursuing the truth.” The old pathway disappearing deep into the forest is a symbol of the profound meaning that exists in learning, and the light of dawn depicted at the top of the painting hints at the hope and relaxation which lie at the end of the rugged pathway.

Private Reading Rooms
These private rooms can be used by faculty, staff and graduate students. The rooms are located adjacent to a courtyard and provide a calm environment that is ideal for study and research.


Research Library
This research library contains materials used mainly in the research of faculty, staff and graduate students. There are also many ancient materials which cannot be found at other universities. There are more than 40 collections of materials donated by individuals with ties to Waseda University, and the collections bear the name of the original owner.

Book Lovers

Priceless time spent among the bookshelves

Professor Atsuhiko Wada (Contemporary Japanese Literature)
Faculty of Education and Integrated Arts and Sciences

The Waseda University Library has been praised since long ago. Some even say that it is better to study at the library than to listen to the instructor's lecture in class! In addition to a wide variety of collected materials, the easy accessibility offered by the library makes it even more wonderful. No other libraries using an open-shelf system provide the opportunity to peruse so many books. Simply wandering among the bookshelves and gazing at the titles written on the spines of books is an opportunity for learning! Also, I admire the library's ability to freely disclose the outstanding content and volume of material contained with the Database of Japanese and Chinese Classics. Libraries act as a lifeline for researchers, and I have been saved by this library many times over the years. Two years ago, in order to repay my debt to the library, I began an educational program that includes working with students to organize unfiled material.

2nd Floor

Reference Book Area
Dictionaries, encyclopedias and other reference materials are kept in this area. Although conversation is not permitted in this area, the use of devices such as personal computers is permitted.

Group Study Rooms
The card catalog system for books became obsolete with the establishment of the materials search system “WINE.” The area in which the card boxes were located has been reborn as a student commons for group study.

3rd Floor

Newspaper & Magazine Area
Users can view approximately 6,000 magazines and 150 newspapers from countries around the world. The area also features a W-shaped sofa.

The Central Library is divided into 3 different “noise zones.” There is a group study zone in which conversation is permitted, a zone in which conversation is prohibited but devices such as personal computers can be used, an a quiet zone in which both conversation and the use of devices in prohibited. The different zones are indicated by easy-to-understand signs using universal design.

Book Lovers

The luxury of learning while working with actual materials

Members of the Graduate School of Education majoring in Japanese language education: Shiroi Oki, Chiharu Kagiyama, Yusuke Kobayashi, Ayako Nakano

The individuals pictured here are members of the Library Partnership Survey Group, a group which organizes unfiled materials in the library. Participation in the group allows members to gain practical experience and knowledge in the handling, organization, and preservation of written materials. The seriousness with which these individuals work can be seen in the following quotes: “I work with materials that no one has organized before, so I find the work thrilling and interesting.” “I worked directly with books written by Ogai Mori and Kinmochi Saionji, so I felt a close connection with literary and historical figures.” “Working with actual materials increased my range of interests and helped me find a research theme.”

4th Floor

Audio-Visual Room
The audio-visual room features private booths where users can listen to many varieties of musical material such as classical music, Japanese music, jazz, lectures, theater and rakugo (Japanese comic storytelling). Also, users can view film material such as recordings of musical performances, movies, documentaries and lectures. The room also features collections of materials such as a DVD containing the final lectures given by retired faculty.

Special Materials Room
The Special Materials Room holds valuable materials such as ancient books from before the Edo Period and earlier, first editions, manuscripts, and modern handwritten transcripts, as well as Western books published before the 19th century. A Precious Materials Library exists inside of the Special Materials Room, and a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius and a humidity of 55% are maintained 24 hours a day in the library. Approximately 40,000 valuable books are stored within this library, including 2 National Treasures and 5 Important Cultural Assets.

Precious Materials Library

This collection contains National Treasures as well as valuable materials and cultural assets.

Book Lovers

The joy of encountering classical works from 800 years ago

Professor Nobuyuki Kanechiku (Waka Literature)
Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences

The Waseda University Library contains a great number of classical works, including even National Treasures and Important Cultural Assets. The library does not simply preserve such works, but makes them available for use and research through a database of classics. This point has gained great acclaim from researchers both in Japan and overseas. One specialty of my research is Teika Fujiwara, and the library recently purchased a portion of Fujiwara's handwritten diary Meigetsu-ki. This section of the diary possesses two letters written on the back of the pages, making it an extremely valuable material. Further research of this material will undoubtedly lead to new discoveries which clarify the culture of that time period. The collection of classics is a treasure that the library has built throughout many years of history.
The Waseda University Library provides a unique opportunity to directly use a variety of classical materials for study and research.

Other Libraries and Student Reading Rooms

Student Reading Rooms

Each undergraduate school has its own student reading room. Each undergraduate school has a collection of magazines and books required for daily study.

Itochu International Group Memorial Student Reading Room (School of Commerce/School of International Liberal Studies Student Reading Room)
Black shelves and wood-grain tables give this reading room a calm atmosphere. This reading room possesses a large collection of business magazines for students in the School of Commerce and a large collection of Western books for students in the School of International Liberal Studies.

School of Law Student Reading Room
This reading room is given a distinct look by shelves positioned in the shape of a fan and a high ceiling. The room contains a vast collection of various case judgments, including cases from the former Supreme Court under Japan's original constitution. The room also contains an expansive collection of other books related to law. This reading room is used by many students seeking a future in the legal profession.

Library of the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum
The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum is one of the few museums in Japan that specialize in theatre. The museum was established to celebrate Dr. Shoyo Tsubouchi's 70th birthday, as well as to commemorate the completion of 40 translated volumes entitled “The Complete Shakespeare,” a work to which Tsubouchi devoted the majority of his life. The library of the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum contains valuable theatrical and film materials from both within Japan and throughout the world.

Book Lovers

The library is a place to find future goals

Mon Myat Thu
March 2010 Graduate of the School of Social Sciences

The Waseda University Library was my reason for entering the university. To me, the Central Library and its collection of more than 2.5 million books was like something out of a dream. While studying the theory and practical application of international cooperation at the School of Social Sciences, I decided that I could make a contribution to the world by creating a library in my home country. In my home country of Myanmar, there are still children who quit going to school in order to help with the family business. However, if a library exists, then even children who have quit school can encounter many books and have a variety of experiences. I was able to find my future goal at the Waseda University Library. Even when I am experiencing some trouble, I find that coming to the library has a mysterious relaxing effect.

Toyama Library
This library combines the function of a study and research library for the Toyama Campus, which contains the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences. At the beginning of the academic year, the library offers nearly the full array of references books specified in the syllabuses of the School of Culture, Media and Society and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. This outstanding breadth of offered material has gained high praise for the library.

Tokorozawa Library
In addition to specialist books and academic journals corresponding to research and education in the Faculty of Human Sciences and the Faculty of Sports Sciences, this library also contains books and magazines conducive to general education. The library also contains the Oda Collection, a donation from Japan's first Olympic gold medalist Mikio Oda (alumnus).

Science and Engineering Library
A research library containing specialized science and engineering material. The collection focuses on magazines and Western books. Together with student reading rooms (basement of Building No. 52 and Building No. 53) containing mainly Japanese texts based on curriculums of the School of Science and Engineering, this library is a vital base for supporting education and research in science and engineering at Waseda University.

S. Takata Memorial Research Library
The S. Takata Memorial Research Library was opened in 1994 as a research library for graduate students, faculty, and staff. The library was created by using empty space in the former library (Building No. 2) which was vacated upon the opening of the current Central Library. This space was filled with collected materials from the faculty reading rooms and the related research libraries of the School of Political Science and Economics, the School of Law, the School of Commerce, the School of Education, and the School of Social Sciences. Sanae Takata was Waseda's first Chancellor and 3rd President, and later served as Minister of Education in the second Cabinet of Prime Minister Okuma.

Book Lovers

Libraries are lifelines of information

Ryutaro Wakabayashi
2nd Year Student in the Doctoral Program of Applied Chemistry
Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering

The search systems for academic information in libraries serve as information lifelines for researchers in scientific fields. Reading academic journals is an essential part of research. In the past, researchers had no other option than to peruse academic journals one at a time when searching for information. Nowadays, researchers can use keywords to search articles posted in electronic journals and can read the desired articles with a click of a button. It is more frequent to read such articles on computer terminals than to print them out.

The Waseda University Library subscribes to a great number of electronic journals. The number is enough to cause jealousy in researches at corporations and other universities. The speed and results of research are greatly affected by how quickly the required research article can be read. I am truly thankful for the outstanding system which exists at our university.

The Waseda University Library: By the Numbers

The Waseda University Library has a great number of noteworthy features, both in terms of scale and depth.
Let's examine some number associated with the library.

128 Years
The library's history. The library was established in 1882 as a reading room of Tokyo Senmon Gakko, the precursor to today's Waseda University. An independent library was established in 1902, the year that the school's name was changed to Waseda University.

2.12 million
The number of users per year. This is the total number of users for all 26 of the library's facilities.

850,000 books
The total number of books borrowed per year.

5,000 seats
The total number of seats for viewing materials in all libraries.

An automatic book storage facility has been installed in the 3rd floor basement of the Central Library, and books can be freely retrieved by using search terminals.

The total number of titles for electronic journals which can be used at Waseda University. This number is exceptionally high when compared to the private university average of 2,393 titles. The majority of our university's titles can be search using the collection search system WINE. Also available for use are more than 40,000 titles of electronic books which have been converted from paper format.

The total area of all libraries and reading rooms.

5,070,000 books
The total number of books. An automatic book storage facility has been installed in the 3rd floor basement of the Central Library, and books can be freely retrieved by using search terminals.


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Bust of Kenkichi Ichishima (Syunjo)

Published: 11 Sep 2010


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